Chris Conde isn’t afraid to get naked — on stage or off.
As a self-described “subversive, queer rapper” the Brooklyn-based artist has a flare for boldness, giving them a certain je ne sais quoi. But if you really want to call it, Conde is passionate about presenting their queerness to hip-hop culture in the face of any preconceived notions about what that might actually look like.
From the moment Conde was introduced to the slam poetry of Saul Williams, they knew they wanted to weave words together into their own colorful tapestry, something that finally afforded them the ability to express the often uncomfortable feelings they experienced growing up.
A military brat, their parents were both active duty Air Force but ultimately divorced to marry other people in the military, so Conde’s whole nomadic life was spent bouncing around. Their mother didn’t initially accept their sexuality, which sent them looking for alternative “solutions” to their queerness. From the ages 15-20, they embraced the “Bible thumping” Christian lifestyle in an effort to figure themselves out. But, that didn’t really work. They eventually turned to drugs and alcohol, which really didn’t work but led them to the path they’re on now. In 2006, they went to their first 12-step meeting and a seed was planted. Although they faltered along the way, they finally got sober in 2014 and has been committed to recovery ever since.
At some point, they made a conscious choice to pursue hip-hop as a career — despite being somewhat embarrassed to fully embrace the “rapper” identity.
“I really feel like I’m an artist and my medium is hip-hop,” Conde says. “This is how I process life. Hip-hop is cathartic for me. I also care about the culture and want people to know I respect it. I will forever be a student of the culture.”
Case in point, Conde’s 2019 EP Conde Digital was a nod to Bobby Digital, the alias of Wu-Tang Clan luminary RZA. But although they adhere to rap’s ethos, the 36-year-old is very much a unicorn in the game. Sometimes they’re rapping over static with a minimalist beat, other times it’s over an acoustic guitar and then they could be rapping over a UK-inspired Grime beat like Skepta, or even a traditional boom bap-type beat.
“At the end of the day, my focus is always the rhymes,” they say. “It’s the story, the lyrics, the cadence, and how I navigate each different audio terrain. That’s hip-hop.”
As Conde became more comfortable with the un-masked, unabashed version of themselves, they began to become even more courageous with their lyrics.
“It's been a lot about my drug use and recovery I'd say,” the rapper says. “A lot of those themes came up on my debut album Growing Up Gay (2019). I write about what I’m going through, I like to be vulnerable. Sometimes it's easier to do that when I write raps because in my head I think no one is going to listen to what i'm saying, even though I know that's not really true.
“The biggest themes I'm writing about lately are hope, letting my audience know they are worthy of healing and becoming whole and that it's ok to reach out for help. I've been writing a lot about self-care too. I also like to make my sexuality very visible in my songs, too. I think that visibility is important for intersectionality in the genre. letting everyone know that queer people are here too”
While it might have been a bumpy road to get to where they are today, they fully embraces who they are, flaws and all. It’s one of the most empowering and endearing qualities the Fake Four, Inc. artist possesses. The shell of the former 160-pound addict they once were has been replaced by a healthier, curvaceous version of themselves and they’ve learned to accept every inch.